Washington's Top Two Youth Volunteers Selected in 19th Annual National Awards Program
Tacoma and Lynnwood students earn $1,000 awards, engraved medallions and trip to nation’s capital
Honors also bestowed on youth volunteers in Liberty Lake, Tacoma, Granite Falls, Veradale, Enumclaw and Mukilteo
OLYMPIA, Wash.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Jessie Swofford, 18, of Tacoma and Mia Nguyen, 13, of Lynnwood today were named Washington's top two youth volunteers of 2014 by The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards, a nationwide program honoring young people for outstanding acts of volunteerism. Jessie was nominated by Curtis Senior High School in University Place, and Mia was nominated by Alderwood Middle School in Lynnwood. The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards, now in its 19th year, is conducted by Prudential Financial in partnership with the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP).
“I would tell others that true friends are hard to find, and you don’t know when they could be gone”
Jessie, a senior at Curtis Senior High School, has helped improve the lives of children with autism and their families for the past five years through her volunteer work for FEAT (Families for Effective Autism Treatment). Jessie knows what it’s like to live with challenges, and to overcome them. When she was an infant, she survived a digestive disorder and a subsequent botched surgery. In second grade, after her teacher noticed she had difficulty reading and writing, Jessie was diagnosed with dyslexia. “Despite overwhelming attention and help from my teachers and parents, I still spent my childhood ashamed and embarrassed of my learning disability,” she said. Though she is now enrolled in honors and AP classes, Jessie said she has “a first-hand understanding of what it means to be different from the status quo.” That is what drew her to volunteer for FEAT.
As a FEAT volunteer, Jessie lends a hand in several ways. Every month the organization hosts “Super Saturdays,” a social gathering run by volunteers to provide a respite to families of children with autism. Jessie and the other volunteers organize games, and gym and theme-oriented activities to give parents a much-needed break for a few hours. Jessie also serves as a mentor to 10 teenagers with autism four times a month, and spends her summers working in an intensive intervention program for children with autism. She is also involved with the FEAT group that gives the teens the opportunity to serve their community while learning valuable social skills by volunteering at rescue missions, food banks, a local YWCA and the library. Jessie said that her work with FEAT helped her to discover her true passion: to work with people with autism as a speech pathologist.
Mia, an eighth-grader at Alderwood Middle School, made and sold more than 100 bows to raise money for Seattle Children’s Hospital in honor of a friend being treated there for leukemia. Prior to 2012, Mia’s volunteer experience consisted mostly of helping out with school activities and with big events at her Buddhist temple. But then her friend was diagnosed with leukemia, a disease that had claimed the lives of some of Mia’s family members. “I didn’t think it was fair that a young, carefree girl had to deal with this, so I started to think about what I could do to help or just make her feel better,” said Mia.
She went online to look for something she could make to raise money. She decided to make bows. First, Mia taught herself how to make a proper bow. Then she went to a fabric store and, with her own money, bought fabric, a glue gun, hairclips and hair ties. Once production was under way, she promoted the project to family and friends, “and soon a lot of people knew about it, and they all wanted some!” said Mia. “I even had some guys who wanted to buy bows just to support the cause.” Mia ended up raising more than $300 for the hospital. “I would tell others that true friends are hard to find, and you don’t know when they could be gone,” she said. “So treat them with kindness, love, respect and trust!”
As State Honorees, Jessie and Mia each will receive $1,000, an engraved silver medallion and an all-expense-paid trip in early May to Washington, D.C., where they will join the top two honorees from each of the other states and the District of Columbia for four days of national recognition events. During the trip, 10 students will be named America’s top youth volunteers of 2014.
The program judges also recognized six other Washington students as Distinguished Finalists for their impressive community service activities. Each will receive an engraved bronze medallion.
These are Washington's Distinguished Finalists for 2014:
Katelyn Dolan, 17, of Liberty Lake, Wash., a senior at Central Valley High School, co-founded “Life Enhancement Through Education in Music (LETEM)” in 2012, an organization that has distributed $13,000 worth of musical instruments to students in need. Katelyn, who says music is an integral part of her life, collects and repairs used instruments, secures grants and donations, builds partnerships with music stores and music teachers, and hosts music clinics through local youth organizations.
McKinley Goble, 18, of Tacoma, Wash., a home-schooled senior, is a spokesperson and ambassador for the Pierce County Toys for Tots, and in her role has helped to raise more than $36,000 and collect donations of clothing, blankets and other items. McKinley, who began her work with the organization in 2011, helps to promote Toys for Tots through speaking engagements, and also does hands-on volunteer work at the warehouse, where she sorts, organizes and delivers donations for children in need.
Dansil Green, 16, of Granite Falls, Wash., a junior at Granite Falls High School, co-founded “Technology Education Center & Outreach (TECO),” an organization that encourages young boys and girls to pursue science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) careers. Dansil, who co-founded the nonprofit with her father in 2012 and currently serves as its Youth Council president, works with elementary robotics teams and hosts a 3-D printing class for middle schoolers.
Philip Howard, 17, of Veradale, Wash., a senior at Central Valley High School, co-founded “Life Enhancement Through Education in Music (LETEM)” in 2012, an organization that has distributed $13,000 worth of musical instruments to students in need and hosted music clinics taught by high school musicians. Philip, who says LETEM is a combination of his passion for music and his mission to help those in need, has developed a long-term plan to get instruments into the hands of those who otherwise could not afford them, and to provide children with opportunities to develop their own passion for music.
Austin Schuver, 17, of Enumclaw, Wash., a junior at Enumclaw High School, founded “Spring to the Tap,” a nonprofit organization that raises awareness about the environmental dangers of bottled water consumption and the benefits of tap water. Austin, who first began his project as an eighth grade assignment, has since worked with community and business leaders, conducted awareness events, recruited a dedicated team of volunteers, and is currently working on the installation of a custom water fountain for city residents.
Carolyn Van Der Meulen, 17, of Mukilteo, Wash., a member of United Way of Snohomish County and a senior at Kamiak High School, co-founded “Foster Bikes,” an organization that has collected and repaired more than 60 bicycles to donate to children in foster care. Carolyn, who founded the organization in 2012 with her brother, works with local agencies to secure donations, coordinates promotion and advertising, recruits volunteers, and took a class so she can personally repair the donated bikes.
“We applaud each of these young people for their exemplary volunteer service,” said Prudential Chairman and CEO John Strangfeld. “They use their time and talents to make a meaningful difference in their communities, and we hope their example inspires others to do the same.”
“By going above and beyond in their volunteer service, these students have brought positive change to communities across the country,” said JoAnn Bartoletti, executive director of NASSP. “Congratulations to each and every one of them on this well-deserved honor.”
About The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards
The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards represents the United States’ largest youth recognition program based solely on volunteer service. All public and private middle level and high schools in the country, as well as all Girl Scout councils, county 4-H organizations, American Red Cross chapters, YMCAs and HandsOn Network affiliates, were eligible to select a student or member for a local Prudential Spirit of Community Award. These Local Honorees were then reviewed by an independent judging panel, which selected State Honorees and Distinguished Finalists based on criteria including personal initiative, effort, impact and personal growth.
While in Washington, D.C., the 102 State Honorees – one middle level and one high school student from each state and the District of Columbia – will tour the capital’s landmarks, meet top youth volunteers from other parts of the world, attend a gala awards ceremony at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History, and visit their congressional representatives on Capitol Hill. On May 5, 10 of the State Honorees – five middle level and five high school students – will be named America’s top youth volunteers of 2014. These National Honorees will receive additional $5,000 awards, gold medallions, crystal trophies and $5,000 grants from The Prudential Foundation for nonprofit charitable organizations of their choice.
Since the program began in 1995, more than 100,000 young volunteers have been honored at the local, state and national level. The program also is conducted by Prudential subsidiaries in Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Ireland, India and China. In addition to granting its own awards, The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards program also distributes President’s Volunteer Service Awards to qualifying Local Honorees on behalf of President Barack Obama.
The National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) is the leading organization of and national voice for middle level and high school principals, assistant principals, and all school leaders from across the United States and more than 36 countries around the world. The association connects and engages school leaders through advocacy, research, education, and student programs. NASSP advocates on behalf of all school leaders to ensure the success of each student and strengthens school leadership practices through the design and delivery of high quality professional learning experiences. Reflecting its long-standing commitment to student leadership development, NASSP administers the National Honor Society, National Junior Honor Society, National Elementary Honor Society, and National Association of Student Councils. For more information about NASSP, located in Reston, VA, visit www.nassp.org.
About Prudential Financial
Prudential Financial, Inc. (NYSE: PRU), a financial services leader, has operations in the United States, Asia, Europe, and Latin America. Prudential’s diverse and talented employees are committed to helping individual and institutional customers grow and protect their wealth through a variety of products and services, including life insurance, annuities, retirement-related services, mutual funds and investment management. In the U.S., Prudential’s iconic Rock symbol has stood for strength, stability, expertise and innovation for more than a century. For more information, please visit www.news.prudential.com.
Editors: For full-color pictures of the Spirit of Community Awards program logo and medallions, click here: http://bit.ly/Xi4oFW